Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Mar-Apl 2012 Contents With a background
now finds herself
right in the thick of
the push for aged
care reform, writes
Director of aged care reform
Pat Sparrow was front and centre in Canberra
last year, as the federal government unveiled
its 2011/2012 budget.
It's not until you look on a career
in retrospect that a distinct path,
perhaps guided by one's greater
sense of purpose, vividly appears.
As the director of aged
care reform engagement at COTA,
Pat Sparrow, reflects on a 26-year
career dedicated to policy work in the
community services, health, government
and aged care sectors, she comments on
how the initial satisfaction of 'giving back'
helped shape her future.
"I guess it's just how I tick," Sparrow
says. "It feels better to do something
where I feel I am contributing to society.
I'm not driven by financial reward.
"I am a people person and love
that in this line of work I can see my
contribution is making a difference in the
lives of older people.
"For me, work is about a life-long
pursuit, about leaving something behind
that matters. It's what makes me feel good
about getting up in the morning."
Right now, Sparrow derives her 'get
up and go' from an opportunity that
currently sits before her and many others
but, up until recently, was out of grasp.
Her daily motivator is the possibility of
aged care reform.
Working towards and achieving aged care
reform is why Sparrow took up her current
position with consumer advocacy group,
COTA. It's also why she spent 10 successful
years as policy manager, deputy and acting
CEO at the not-for-profit peak body, Aged
and Community Services Association
(ACSA), and why she still remains
committed to the sector.
"I want to see the sector reformed! I
hope I can be part of making that happen,
when it happens.
"...There's been a really long and
sustained effort from lots of people who
have taken on campaigning roles, from
making it all happen to managing the
process [of pushing for reform].
"We are starting to see some of the
products of our labour now with the
government saying it will start the reforms
in this term. But we still don't know when
it will happen.
"The Greens say reform is necessary.
The Opposition say reform is necessary.
They might not all agree about the shape
the reforms should take but everyone is
[now] united on the need to act."
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
Contracted to work for COTA until June
this year, Sparrow currently uses her policy,
advocacy, campaigning and engagement
skills, and experience gained from past
positions in the Department of the Premier
and Cabinet; Victorian Department of
Human Services; and ACSA, to oversee the
national consumer consultation process
supporting the Minister for Mental Health
and Ageing, Mark Butler, during the
government's 'Conversations on Ageing'.
It is hoped that the 'conversations' will
form the basis of the federal government's
Productivity Commission (PC) response
which will ideally help create a consumer-
directed, market-driven, responsive,
person-centred, aged care system.
Sparrow says her main task, as the
head of the group's engagement strategy,
is to help "figure out" exactly what it is
that older adults want and need.
To do that, it is essential "to not only
listen but hear what people have to say".
"If you take the time to really listen to
people, that's when you can usually find a
way through challenges and come up with
different ways of meeting people's needs."
Elements of this current position, she
comments, remind her of jobs gone past,
where she worked with older people and
communities on the ground and saw, first-
hand, just how effective policies translate
in to real life benefits.
In the nineties, Sparrow worked in
various positions for the Victorian state
government as a community development
worker; HACC coordinator for the
Department of Human Services (inner
east region); and later, HACC services
It was these community-based roles,
she says, "where I discovered a love of
policy as I had the benefit of seeing how it
worked on the ground".
"...I'm not into policy that looks good.
It has to work in practice. You have to
understand how services operate and
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